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Fighting Tooth Decay with Probiotics
August 10, 2011

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - A daily dose of "good" bacteria might help kids fight tooth decay, say Indian researchers.

The researchers did a study of 150 children. All were between the ages of 7 and 14. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The children in each group received a powder that had to be mixed with 20 milliliters of water. Then they swished that solution in their mouths and swallowed it. They did this once a day for 14 days.

One group's powder contained no active ingredients. This was the control group. The second group's powder contained two species of probiotics, or bacteria that can promote health. The probiotics that were combined in the second group included Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a commercially available probiotic, and Bifidobacterium, a probiotic used in the food industry. The third group's powder contained Bacillus coagulans, which is also used as a probiotic.

The children were tested for levels of Streptococcus mutans both before and after the study. This species of bacteria causes tooth decay.

Both of the groups receiving probiotic powders had large reductions in the numbers of S. mutans compared with the group that did not receive any probiotic supplements.

Several studies have examined whether probiotics could prevent tooth decay. But studies have had variable results. For example, Danish scientists completed a 2010 study of teenagers who drank milk with or without probiotics. In that study they used the same probiotic examined in the Indian study (L. rhamnosus). The probiotics did not change the types and amounts of other bacteria in the mouth, including S. mutans. In the Danish study, all of the teenagers already had tooth decay. The children in the Indian study were healthy.

The authors of the Indian study indicate that additional research is necessary to determine if probiotics would be of benefit in reducing the amount of cavities in children.

The Indian study appears in the August issue of the European Archives of Paediatric Dentistry.

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